ON THE ROAD
THOSE of a certain vintage will remember the daily shenanigans of Arthur Daley. Played on the telly box by the late great George Cole, Arthur summed up his secondhand car business thus: “You make contact with your customer, understand their needs then flog them something they could well do without.”
From the punter’s perspective, I’ve been there, done that. Recently I strode into a phone shop wearing my Mr Angry face, with the intention of getting a better deal on my soon-to-be-up contract. I exited with my Mr Confused face and a uselessly new smartphone that came with an eye-wateringly expensive two-year payment plan.
But surely the halcyon days of the unscrupulous secondhand car dealer are a thing of the past?
Well, while there surely must be bad apples, the latest stats would suggest a newfound trust in our modern car dealers.
In fact, more than two thirds (68%) of 18-24 year olds would feel uncomfortable buying a car without the face-to-face guidance you can only get from a bona fide dealer.
This is according to new research from finance company Black Horse.
Its survey also claims the major elements of car buying we want human help with are the vehicle itself (67%), warranty and maintenance information (68%) and finance options (37%).
Younger drivers are most likely to want support with money matters, with a large proportion of those aged 18-24 (50%) and 25-34 (44%) saying they want a dealer to help with this.
Sadly, it’s a long time since I fitted into such age brackets yet I confess I would not be confident buying from a private seller. Things that go through my mind: Should I turn up at the lay-by with a bag of used fifty pound notes, as requested in the email? Is the car held together with that sticky tape? Does this V5 look like a photocopy?
It’s all very worrying and explains why my latest purchase has taken place in the cosy confines of a professional dealership.
Having spied the Audi TT online and phoned ahead for a spin, I armed myself with my best Daley-busting mantra: Do not tell the nice man you love his car. Do not mention it’s priced fairly. Do not tell the nice man you want to buy his car. Repeat.
Cue: “What a beauty. You must have a lot of interest with only one owner on the book?”
To be fair, it was less stressful than the alternative, which had been meeting Dave from Gumtree at his bro’s place and looking over his sick brief coz, like, he wanna go swopsies for my grandad Porsche.
I have mates who love getting bargains in such private sales and I’m not saying every encounter ends up in bartering with a Torquemada. It’s just that all of mine have.
No, I’m happier at a dealership, in this instance the estimably reputable Parks Motor Group. Not only did I get to consider my car in a safe and pleasant environment, over coffee, but there was no hard sell. And when my decision was made everything else was taken care of for me – from swapping the reg from my trade-in to ensuring a dealer warranty.
Meantime, with a care of duty to answer questions, provide clear explanations and help me understand all my options – admirably displayed in this case by one James Gray at Parks’ Honda HQ in Hamilton – dealers will continue to play a pivotal role in the car buying journey for consumers.
Sorry, Arthur. Sorry, Dave.